Weekly Lesson

Hey all! Here is the lesson from Sunday night: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/1st-samuel-7/id967737389?i=336694082&mt=2

Here are some questions that may spark some discussion in the home…

1.  Do you see the relationship between younger age and more sin and becoming older in the faith and hating it more (even though there’s less)?

2.  What areas in your life resemble the world more than Christ’s kingdom?

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Tim Keller quote from Romans 1:17

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For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith. Romans 1:16a

Tim Keller has something wonderful written about this:

“Many people think Jesus died merely to forgive us. Our sins were laid on him, and we are pardoned when we believe in him. That is true, but that is only half of Christian salvation. If that were all Jesus did, we would then only receive a new “wiped clean” slate. It would be up to us to add credit or merit to our account. But here Paul tells us that we have been given righteousness, rather than merely declared not guilty.

Jesus’ salvation is not only like receiving a pardon and release from death row and prison. Then we’d be free, but on our own, left to make our own way in the world, thrown back on our own efforts if we’re to make anything of ourselves. But in the gospel, we discover that Jesus has taken us off death row and then has hung around our neck the Congressional Medal of Honor. We are received and welcomed as heroes, as if we had accomplished extraordinary deeds.”

Excerpt From: Timothy Keller. “Romans 1-7 For You.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/rkjwW.l

a new day (not cheesy)

welcome to the  NCPC youth website/blog/ all kind of things in one.  As a youth director, I have been moved to place this particular ministry in a more Biblical model.  What do I mean?

So many times, youth ministry runs parallel with the church congregation.  This fits well with the cult of individuality environment of post 1960’s America.  It’s exciting to be a silo over there that does the fun stuff….but…it’s not God’s desire.

God’s desire is:

Deuteronomy 6:7New American Standard Bible (NASB)

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

We should do all we can to facilitate in-house discipleship.  This site will be dedicated to this facilitation.  The podcast feed will be here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/new-covenant-student-ministry/id967737389?mt=2

And we’ll have some study questions as well that will, hopefully, provide opportunity for discipleship.  Thanks for checking the site and matt the Lord bless this endeavor!

That pesky Third Commandment

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Today, the theme is the third commandment, er…rather *’saying’ according to …well, let’s not even go in that direction.

The third commandment is ‘Thou shalt not take the Lord’s Name in vain.’  Seems easy enough, or so I really thought as a kid.  Just don’t say GD or ‘Oh my ____’ or a number of other things.  *Don’t even say ‘gosh’ or ‘darn’ if you’re OPC.

Not so fast my friend.  That is the tip of the iceberg for this commandment.  Of course, you shouldn’t say these things and of course, if you’re ever in a courtroom setting and you swear on the Bible, it had better be the truth.  But, there’s something more serious than this.

This name thing.  There’s something to it.  We take the Name of the Lord in our baptism and we take the Name of the Lord when a pastor says the benediction over us.  God is everywhere but these two particulars are moments of heightened awareness of carrying this great name as a believer and follower of Yahweh.

Follow me for a second to the logical reality of this, and this comes by way of Dr. Mark Ross.  Taking the name of God in vain, in it’s broader context means, living in a way contrary to that Name we have taken on.  When we take upon the Name of God, as in our baptism, or having the benediction said over us, He owns us in a real way.  And when we live in ways that run contrary to the character or nature of God, we then evacuate the Name of it’s content before an onlooking world.  It is as if we hold the Name up-and then take all the meaning out of it and declare with our actions, ‘This is the nature and character of God.’

The Name gets emptied of it’s meaning every time we tell a lie, every time we have a momentary slip into some gross sin, overtime we act out of anger…you get the point.  So this post is sort of two fold, 1. Faithful Christian living outwardly displays the 3rd commandment and 2. There is grace for when we do act in ways contrary to the true Nature of the God from whom we have taken His Name.

Next time you’re tempted in some area, remember…will I be taking the Lord’s Name in  vain by this action?

* after reading some Vos, I was actually humbled by his statements about the whole gosh and darn thing.  Here’s his commentary to part of the third commandment; and sorry, it’s pretty long- but good and worthy of our attention.

In addition to the actual names of God, what forms of his self-revelation are we forbidden to misuse or take in vain?

titles, attributes, ordinances, and works: that is, Any form in which God has revealed his nature and character. Many people Who do not dare to take the actual name ‘God’ in vain continue in virtually the same sin by abusing God’s titles and works, misused by such profane expressions as Holy Smoke!, a flippant reference to the smoke of incense burned in the temple services, “Jerusalem! ‘ (a profane use of the name of the city where God’s presence among His covenant people was especially revealed, “Good grief!” apparently a careless and irreverent reference to Christ’s sufferings in Gethsemane and on the cross. Some of these abuses are so common that even Christian people use them without realizing what they are doing. We should realize that all these are similar expressions are violations of the third conunandnient, and displeasing to God.

Johannes Geerhardus Vos. Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (Kindle Locations 4084-4090). Kindle Edition.

Sunday Nights

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Sunday nights, we have been exploring the reality of our brokenness and where that comes from. It doesn’t take a detective to understand that we don’t function as we should. Something is wrong with us, inside. We don’t like talking like this. If it were up to us, we’d switch the narrative and buy into the Oprah-ology of the day and say, “Oh no, we’re good to the core and become bad by environment.” Psalm 51 says something different, in that Psalm David even says, “In sin did my mother CONCEIVE me. Surely, I was brought forth in iniquity.”

Want a classic example of this? I saw my 2 year old son do something that would bring him embarrassment, but wasn’t sinful per se. He didn’t see me view him have this accident. So I approached the subject…”Thomas, did you ______?”
“No daddy”
“Are you sure, it’s okay to tell me…you won’t be in trouble.”
“No daddy, I want mommy.”
For about 30 minutes he didn’t want anything to do with me and hid under his mom’s legs. Why? He felt shame and on top of that, he lied about it to me. There is a standard somehow his little 2 year old mind knows about and he broke that standard. That wasn’t the end…
He became agitated at me asking that I go away. We finally got to the point where talked about his accident and he fessed up to it. And what about afterwards?
Full fellowship, “Daddy lets play.”
And that’s the exact same thing we read about in the garden of Eden. “Adam, where are you?”
We are born like this, and as good as pop psychology tries, it can’t quite explain this . We are broken. We come here broken and we act out of that brokenness.
I love Dr. Micheal Horton’s words here, “Paul and his fellow apostles knew that they were by nature— like the rest of us—bent in on themselves. And picking up on a phrase from Augustine, the Protestant Reformers said that as fallen sinners we are all “curved in on ourselves.” Born with a severe case of spiritual scoliosis, our spines are twisted so that all we can see are our own immediate felt needs, desires, wants, and momentary gratifications.” Did you pick up on that? All we can see are our own me-ness.

Enter the gospel, the good news declared for us. Again, Dr. Horton writes, “It is interesting that the biblical writers chose the word “gospel.” The heart of most religions is good advice, good techniques, good programs, good ideas, and good support systems. These drive us deeper into ourselves, to find our inner light, inner goodness, inner voice, or inner resources. I just hear echoes of my own voice telling me all sorts of crazy things to numb my sense of fear, anxiety, and boredom, the origins of which I cannot truly identify. But the heart of Christianity is Good News. It comes not as a task for us to fulfill, a mission for us to accomplish , a game plan for us to follow with the help of life coaches, but as a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed, and achieved everything for us. It’s Good News because it does not depend on us. It is about God and his faithfulness to his own purposes and promises.”

It is only through the work of Christ for us that we dare stand fully accepted and declared, “My child in whom I am well pleased.” This Christmas season, remember Christ came to do something for us we could never ever dare do for ourselves, and because of that work- we can come out of the dark and say, “Daddy, let’s play.”

Good quote from a Kyle Idleman book

I really like this guy, we’re from different theological backgrounds, but he writes some really good stuff.  The following quote is about Jesus’ hard word in ‘hating’ family for His sake.  Here’s a quote:

Imagine that the different loves of your life are competing in a race to see who wins first place. Jesus, your spouse, your children, a best friend, and a sibling are all lined up on the starting blocks. The idea isn’t that Jesus comes in first place in this race. What Jesus is describing here is more accurately understood by picturing a race for first place in your life and he is the only one on the track. Jesus isn’t just saying, “I want to be first place in your life.” He is saying, “I don’t even want there to be a second place.” When we compare our relationship with him to anyone else there should be no competition. Fans will try and make Jesus one of many. Some fans may even make Jesus the first of many. But when Jesus defines the relationship he makes it clear; he wants to be your one and only.

Idleman, Kyle (2011-06-07). Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (pp. 58-59). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Well stated.

a further word on Sunday night

Sunday night was about the act of twisting and maligning the great gift of personal achievement in order to gain value and purpose, or even an identity from THAT.  We terminate the joy on the accomplishment and turn it into yet another god-replacement.  2 things really about this one: 1.  It’s probably the easiest of the false gods to worship 2. It brings with it great pressure to constantly gain for yourself bigger, better achievement.  I noted that most of the people within our group felt that weight and pressure daily.  We are a culture that looks to the individual and asks, “So what have you done so that I should respect/honor you?”

One of the bigger talking points was that of sibling rivalry.  Close quarters can make the pressure even more ….pressure-y.  If a brother os sister has a 4.0, you’re 3.5 isn’t quite cutting it, now is it?

How does one get out of the rat race? How can we really escape the pressures of achievement and the enslavement to the trophy/badge/polished up ‘you name it’?

I find it interesting that Jesus said this something was finished on the cross as He breathed His last.  What exactly was being finished?  A lot of things, but what is pertinent to our discussion right now is the old order was being demolished.  Kingdoms were colliding with that phrase.  The old way, one could say the demonic and fleshly way, was being stood on it’s head.  See, the world operates a certain way.  We are someone because we have ______.  That’s the world’s way of personal worth and identity.  Jesus dismantles that on the cross, He accomplished a new way; humanity 2.0.

You might be temped to look around for a standard of worth.  You might be tempted use your siblings as the benchmark for what real personal value is or is not.  Please remember though; the way of the cross.  We don’t glory in our accomplishments, rather something done on our behalf.  We glory in an instrument for execution. We glory and identify with the One who for the joy set before Him, entered into the shame and said, “It is finished.”

Worldliness has a rival set of glory; for all those in bondage to the idea that accomplishments equal worth, you are drinking deep from the wells of the world.  Drop that idea and repent.  Rather than sweating to accomplish for value, rest in the accomplishment that was finished for you.  He lived the life you could never life and died the death you should have died.  ironically, this will free you up to accomplish and NOT turn it into an idol-you’ll be able to enjoy the gift even more.

Fabulous word this fine August day

How easy is it, really, to feel the weight of being above ground sometimes? I don’t mean this in some melancholy funk; I simply mean that it is really easy to not see life as a gift, but rather as a heavy trial, full of burdens, pains, and hard work. For some (ok most), there might come a time where this problem or that problem or (fill in the blank) will no longer be always nagging, always something to deal with, but rest assured that thing will replaced by another thing. It’s tough sometimes.
So what do you do? You pull a great book off the shelf, full of godly wisdom and you remember. N.D. Wilson is one of my favorite authors and he says it quite masterfully, “Clichés are true. Time flies. You can’t take it with you. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Dust to dust.
In the ground, we all have empty hands.
Enjoy life now. And now. And now. Before the nows are gone. See the gifts. Savor the food, knowing that you will have to swallow.”

Far from being a call to YOLO though, he goes on…
“Some people are given more on this earth and some are given less. Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or by man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows. And this: Gratitude is liberation. We are all mortals, called into this narrative in this timestream without our consent. And we will all reach an end. See the gifts. And if they seem sparse, start counting. Omit nothing. Can you count that high? You may have less than others do, like the widow with two small coins in the temple. God had given her little, but what did she do with her little?
Grabbing will always fail. Hoarding always fails. Living to live always reaches inevitable and pointless Darwinian burnout—bigger fears, deeper mortal panic. Live to die. If you do, inevitable success awaits you. If you were suddenly given more than you could count, and you couldn’t keep any of it for yourself, what would you do? That is, after all, our current situation. Grabbing will always fail. Giving will always succeed. Bestow. Our children, our friends, and our neighbors will all be better off if we work to accumulate for their sakes. If God has given you a widow’s mite, let it go. Set it on the altar. If God has given you a greater banquet than you can possibly eat, let it go. Set it on the altar. Collect a ragtag crew and seat them. Don’t leave food uneaten, strength unspent, wine undrunk.”

If I could give a spoiler alert; that’s the theme for this entire book he wrote about a year ago. Your life was given to you to spend. So spend away, but not on yourself. Spend it for others. Spend it for the joy of others, and guess what happens? Your joy increases.
Using Christ as the Supreme Example, this has been laid out as the blueprint for us to follow. Flawed as we are, we can’t do this perfectly-but the charge is still there, spend your life for the good of others. Spend it till it’s empty.

Excerpt From: Thomas Nelson. “Death by Living.”

Want to be encouraged and challenged?

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So, Mr. Apostle himself, Paul has these two seemingly contradictory things to say in the same letter to the same people in Rome.
“16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed  i from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

and there’s this…

“6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury”
Excerpt From: Crossway. “ESV Classic Reference Bible.” iBooks.

YOWZA! The righteous ones live by FAITH and then, “YOU’RE GOING TO BE RENDERED TREATMENT BASED ON YOUR WORKS!” (I’m sure Paul meant that to in all caps no emojis.) What do we make of this?

Well, a lot actually.
1. Paul is quoting Psalm 62 where David lists two groups of people. group 1 hates God’s appointed king and plot secretly to see him destroyed. Group 2 is legit. Maybe even classified as, “Too legit” but the jury is still out on that. Group 2 finds their rest in Him and know that salvation is totally from Him and Him alone (Go read the Psalm!).
2. Paul is saying works DO MATTER! They matter because they GIVE EVIDENCE of salvation, NOT the BASIS of your salvation though! Tim Keller states it way better, “In Psalm 62, what matters fundamentally is a person’s relationship to God, as their refuge, their rock, their salvation—and, as verses 9-10 of the psalm suggest, this will be seen in how they perceive their life, and what they do in it. Good works show we have saving faith; they do not add to our faith in saving us.”

Preachers do this from time time: What do your works say about your faith? What do your conversations prove? (No one is perfect, but what’s the trajectory of these works?) In the west, particularly within the realm of student ministry- it’s REALLY easy to pull wool over eyes and play the game. Eventually though, the works prove the person to be a true believer or a really good game player.

Hear me out, I’m not trying to get you to doubt your salvation; although if it needs to doubted, then maybe you need to pay attention to those doubts. No, I want to encourage believers that if you do find your rest in Him alone for salvation, nd you see the evidence of this (albeit imperfectly), praise Him! He has chosen you for salvation and will continue the work of making you into the image of His Son and He will see it to completion too!

Excerpt From: Tim Keller. “Romans 1-7 For You.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/rkjwW.l

God tests

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Thank you for that test.
When have you ever used that phrase? You really don’t need me telling you this, but God is a God who tests His people ALL THE TIME.
I’ll keep it short and sweet with a quote from Ed Welch about God’s testing ways. “Don’t think final exams and test anxiety. Think of tests as a way to expose traitors during wartime. We are the potential traitors and don’t even know it. God tests us because we are so oblivious to the mixed allegiances in our hearts. The purpose of the test is to help us see our hearts and if they are found traitorous, we can turn back to God. God is not playing mind games with us; he is forging a relationship.”

Mmmm- let that sweet truth marinate a bit.